Question: How is a contract formed in Pennsylvania?

Answer: Click here. 


Question:  Does a contract have to be in writing?

Answer: Click here. 


Question:  What does it mean to “breach” a contract, and what will a “breach of contract” lawyer tell you?

Answer: Click here. 


Question: What damages are available for  breach of contract? Can I sue for  aggravation?

Answer: Click here.


Question: Can I file in small claims court?

Answer: Click here.


Everyday Problems in Contracts Law:  

The following questions were posed to us by KDKA News and/or Duquesne University School of Law relative to a lecture given by Todd Elliott to first year contract law students: 


What happens if friends chip in for a lottery ticket, and they win, with no written agreement how to share the proceeds?

ANSWER:  Every contract involves four steps of analysis.  First, is there a contract, meaning, is there and “offer”, “acceptance,” consideration, and meeting of the minds?  – and, are there any defenses to the contract? Secondly, what are the terms? Third, has there been a material breach? Lastly, what are the damages?

Here, more facts are needed to ascertain the “offer” and “acceptance” to know the terms.  Were the students pitching in money with the shared purpose of sharing in the proceeds of the lottery?  Or, was one or more of the students making a loan to the third for him to buy tickets, with the understanding that the loan would be re-paid, regardless of winnings, but the proceeds would not be shared?  Or, was one party making a gift, “hey, here is a five.  You’ll lose the lottery, trust me.  No need to pay me back.”

Does the agreement have to be in writing? In Pennsylvania, the only agreements that need to in writing are those required by statute, such as the Home Improvement Act, and the statute of frauds, including:

Purchase of real estate or transfer any interest in real estate

Leases for more than three years

Promises to answer for the debt of another

Sales of goods for $500 or more (see Harry Rubin & Sons v. Con. P. Co. of Am., 396 Pa. 506 – Pa: Supreme Court 1959).

Sales of personal property for $5,000 or more

Leases of goods for $1,000 or more

Here, none of these exceptions apply, so this is not the type of contract that has to be in writing, so this scenario could create litigation in court to ascertain the intent of the parties (not the subjective intent, but the mutually understood intent).



What if roommates each sign on the lease, but one wants to move out; how does that person come off the lease?

Here, the offer and acceptance are fairly easy to ascertain: there is an offer of space to occupy for a promise to pay and co-sign on the lease.  Getting one’s name off the lease is another matter.  It will depend on the terms of agreement.  A lease need not be in writing if it can be performed within 3 years, but most landlords will require a written lease. A person expecting payment in the future will want to hold as many people as responsible to increases the chances of collecting money if one person defaults.  The landlord may seek to hold all parties to the lease responsible for payment, but the tenants can file claims between each other in terms how to share in the rent based on any understanding they have with each other, irrespective of the landlord.



What if a student is injured in a car accident driving to Philly on winter break, and the negligent driver asks the student to endorse a release; is the release valid?

For a valid contract to exist, there has to be an offer, acceptance, and consideration.  Here, what is the consideration for the release or waiver?  If nothing is given in exchange for it, there might not be any kind of release at all.  Or, if a person pays $500 on the spot for property damage, that may not necessarily release a subsequent claim for pain and suffering, if no general release exists.



If the student is skiing, and there is language printed on the back of the ski lift ticket, does language limit the student’s rights if the skis the student rented were defective and were the cause of the injury?

Here, there is definitely a contract:  an offer (of a ski lift ticket), for money, so there is an agreement.  Here, the issue is, what are the terms?  Did both parties reasonably understand the terms printed on the ski lift ticket to be part of an agreement?  Did the student even see those terms?  If not, it might be something called a contract of adhesion, where one party is trying to bind the other to terms not meant to be part of the agreement.


What if girlfriend co-signs for boyfriend to buy a car, and he stops making payments; is she liable?

There is likely a sale contract, if the agreement is in writing (if it’s sold by a dealer), and has consideration.  If the girlfriend co-signs at the same time as the deal between the boyfriend and car seller, then the girlfriend’s agreement to co-sign has consideration, she wants her boyfriend to get a car, so the agreement to sell her boyfriend a car is the consideration for her signing.  But here, the timing is important.  If the boyfriend already had a deal with the car company, and the girlfriend later agrees to “co-sign” at the request of the seller (to give her more security that she will be paid), then there might not be consideration for the “agreement” to co-sign.